Monday, 12 May 2014

Review: Above the East China Sea by Sarah Bird

Set on the island of Okinawa today and during World War II, this deeply moving and evocative novel tells the entwined stories of two teenage girls-an American and an Okinawan-whose lives are connected across 70 years by the shared experience of both profound loss and renewal.

Luz, a contemporary U.S. Air Force brat, lives with her no-nonsense sergeant mother at Kadena Air Base. Luz's older sister, her best friend and emotional center, has died in the Afghan war. Unmoored by her death, unable to lean on her mother, Luz contemplates taking her own life. In l945, Tamiko has lost everyone-the older sister she idolized and her entire family-and finds herself trapped between the occupying Japanese and the invading Americans whom she has been taught are demons that live to rape. On an island where the spirits of the dead are part of life and the afterworld reunites you with your family, suicide offers Tamiko the promise of peace. As Luz tracks down the story of her own Okinawan grandmother, she discovers that the ancestral spirits work as readily to save her as they do to help Tamiko find a resting place. And as these two stories unfold and intertwine, we see how war and American occupation have shaped and reshaped the lives of Okinawans.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: May 27th 2014 by Knopf
Terri's Thoughts:
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Knopf via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication data is May 27, 2014.
This story started a little odd for me.  Talking about spirits and the spirit world and giving a voice to those who have left the earth.  I was concerned that the story was going to be different than I expected and one that I would have to say.  One piece of advice that I would give to anyone who is reading this and feels the same is to stick with the story.  It becomes worth it.
As the story tells the present day story of Luz and her struggles to come to terms with the loss of her sister it also tells the story of Tamiko and the battle that occurred on the island of Okinawa during world war II.  You know while reading the story that their stories are intertwined somehow however I will not be the one to divulge how.
The highlight of this story is the Island of Okinawa and it's history during the war.  Although I know this story is one of fiction it baffles me how I can learn a piece of our world history that I did not know about through pieces of literature.  As I am a big fan of stories written about the war I really enjoyed learning about another piece of it that doesn't appear to be widely known, at least it wasn't to me.
As the story progressed it left me with a haunting feeling which is always a sign of a good book to me.  I can't put my finger on what it was that has stayed with me but all I can say is that the reader is left rewarded after a somewhat shaky start to the book.
If you are a fan of wartime stories, tragedy and a little bit of romance then this is a book that I would recommend.  A little different from the usual string of wartime stories however not too far from the formula that one can not sit back and be lost in the pages.  I really enjoyed this book.
About the Author
From her Goodreads profile
"Above the East China Sea" is going to be published May 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf.
My previous novels are:
Alamo House
Boyfriend School
Mommy Club
Virgin of the Rodeo
Yokota Officers Club
Flamenco Academy
How Perfect Is That
The Gap Year
I've been a columnist for Texas Monthly for the past eight years.
Awards include a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship; a National Magazine Award; Elle Magazine Readers Prize; People Magazines Page Turners; Barnes & Nobles Discover Great Writers; a BookSense Pick; NY Public Library's Books to Remember; Amazons Fiction and Literature Editors Best Book of the Year list; SW Critics Best Novel of the Year; Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Work of Fiction, (twice); and Writers League of Texas Award of Literary Merit.
Besides Texas Monthly my articles and essays have appeared in Oprahs Magazine, NY Times Sunday Magazine, Real Simple, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Salon, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, MS, and Texas Observer.
I've written screenplays for Paramount, CBS, Warner Bros, National Geographic, ABC, TNT, Hemdale Studio, and several independent producers.  

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